AEDI – Children’s Savings Account Projects

AEDI’s research has helped to make the case for asset investments in children’s educational attainment, as a lever with which to catalyze upward mobility. Today, policymakers, funders, advocates, and program practitioners rely on AEDI’s findings regarding the potential for children’s savings to improve outcomes along the educational pipeline, while AEDI’s application of Identity-Based Motivation and its utility for explaining the potency of even small-dollar accounts is informing CSA design. As Children’s Savings Account initiatives gain traction throughout the country, AEDI’s research and consultation with CSA programs continue to make critical contributions to the evolving knowledge base and growing asset constituency.

Kindergarten to College (K2C) – San Francisco

The Kindergarten to College (K2C) program is a pioneer in the arena of children’s savings, as the first universal CSA to be delivered through a public school system in the United States. K2C was championed by the city’s Office of Financial Empowerment and the San Francisco Unified School District in 2010. Today, K2C provides a college savings account to each child entering kindergarten. These accounts are complemented by age-appropriate, classroom-based financial education and activities to encourage savings—including savings matches and school-based ‘bank days’. AEDI is conducting both process and outcome evaluations of K2C to examine what factors relate to successful adoption of CSAs by communities, schools, and families; explore initial community-level effects of CSAs; and conduct rigorous validation of the educational effects of CSA holding on academic achievement scores.

Primary Research Questions:

RQ1. What is the impact of providing college savings accounts (CSAs) to kindergarteners on early academic achievement?

RQ2. What is the impact of providing CSAs to kindergarteners on their self-regulatory behaviors in school?

RQ3. To what extent do students (and their families) who receive CSAs make deposits into their accounts?

RQ4. To what extent does greater savings and/or more frequent deposits into CSAs relate to early academic achievement and self-regulatory behaviors in school?


Prosperity Kids - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Prosperity Kids is the CSA initiative of New Mexico’s community-based Prosperity Works. As part of Prosperity Works’ comprehensive community development interventions, children and families in Albuquerque’s South Valley community have an opportunity for financial inclusion and progressive asset building. Five hundred children from birth to 11 years old whose parents have completed 10 weeks of child development and community leadership training and two weeks of financial capability training are receiving a CSA with a $100 seed deposit in a custodial account at the Rio Grande Credit Union. Family and child deposits into these accounts will be matched up to $200 per year for 10 years. At high school graduation, these funds may be used for post-secondary education or, at age 23, to secure stable financial transition to adulthood. With this approach, Prosperity Kids aims to improve educational attainment and financial security among a disadvantaged population, largely comprised of first-generation immigrants and their children. Within the CSA field, Prosperity Kids is distinctive in that it also includes an emergency savings vehicle for parents. While U.S. policy and financial services have long viewed children as passive recipients of savings, the incorporation of parental savings with a CSA flips that frame, seeing potential value in engaging parents through the lever of their children’s activation as savers, toward a goal of stronger financial standing for the entire family unit.  AEDI is studying the effects of the parent training and CSA enrollment on parent and child participation, expectations for the future, and asset formation. Our research in New Mexico can help to shape two-generation asset-building endeavors and guide CSAs tackling challenges related to fostering participation and increasing educational attainment among new immigrants and other disadvantaged populations.

Primary Research Questions:

RQ1. To what extent do students and their families who receive a CSA contribute (frequency of savings, average matched funds, total savings) to the account?

RQ2. Do students who receive CSAs via Prosperity for Kids demonstrate better attendance in school relative to their counterparts who do not receive a CSA?

RQ3. Do students in Grades 3-6 who receive CSAs via Prosperity for Kids demonstrate higher mathematics and reading proficiency relative to their counterparts who do not receive a CSA?


Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) - Maine

Established in 2008 by the Harold Alfond Foundation, Maine’s CSA program provides a $500 seed deposit to all babies born to residents of the state, as well as a matching grant worth up to $300/year. Maine’s CSA is another field leader, with the most generous initial seed deposit in the country and key insights into scaling, enrollment procedures, and delivery systems. Although the HACC started with an opt-in design, in 2014 the Harold Alfond College Challenge became the first CSA program in the country to use its 529 platform to automatically open CSAs for all children. Maine’s high profile and pioneering contributions make it a particularly compelling research venue. AEDI is working with HACC and its partners to investigate the impact of the move from opt-in to opt-out enrollment, the use of the 529 account structure, and the impact of outreach and educational activities on financial and education outcomes.

Primary Research Questions:

RQ1. How do families who opted into the program compare to those who are automatically enrolled?

RQ2. What are the effects (on children and their families) of a child being born in the opt-out cohort (after 3/6/2014) compared to the opt-in cohort?

RQ3. What are the effects of a child being born in the retroactive opt-out cohort (after 1/1/2013) compared to the opt-in cohort that immediately preceded it?

RQ4. Do the effects of HACC’s transition to opt-out vary across locations and demographics and, if so, along what dimensions, particularly in terms of geography and family income?

RQ5. How do Maine families experience the HACC, particularly in terms of its effects on their expectations, preparation, and engagement in the arena of educational attainment?


Promise Indiana

The Promise Indiana model is the result of collaborations between the Wabash County YMCA, local public and private school leadership, and administrators of the state’s 529 plan, CollegeChoice. In addition to its unique origins, the model is notable for its holistic approach and considerable success in activating account initiation and family savings. Promise Indiana reflects CSAs’ formulation as comprehensive interventions for children’s economic mobility, not mere financial products. Promise Indiana works through both asset accumulation and account ownership effects to build balances and foster college-saver identities among individual students and entire communities. Today, Promise Indiana also holds important lessons for scaling CSAs, as replication is completed or in progress in numerous additional counties beyond Wabash County.

Primary Research Questions:

RQ1. To what extent do students and their families who receive a CSA contribute (frequency of savings, average matched funds, and total savings) to the account?

RQ2. Do students who receive CSAs via Promise Indiana have fewer unexcused absences than their counterparts who do not receive a CSA?

RQ3. Do students in Grades 4-5 who receive CSAs via Promise Indiana demonstrate higher mathematics and reading proficiency relative to their counterparts who do not receive a CSA?

New Book Released

Today’s student loan system is in place because of a political compromise, and growing discontent with student debt may signal that this arrangement has run its course. While there are resources and organizations in place to help those struggling with debt, the time has come to consider a new direction for financial aid, William Elliott III and Melinda Lewis argue in “Student Debt: A Reference Handbook.”

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